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The Staff Notation : Introduction

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The Staff Notation:

(Absolute must know basics have been discussed here. For details, one may refer to any good music book, site or online encyclopedia.):

The Staff Lines:
The Staff Lines

Staff lines are a set of five lines drawn on a sheet from left to right and joined at the beginning, or end by a single or a double bar.

Symbols of time length of each notes to be played is placed on these lines. The position of such a note on the line indicates its pitch with respect to the other notes.

In the above figure, we see a staff made for a guitar. The large curved G-like symbol sitting on all the five lines is called the G-clef (Treble clef). Clef means “key.” It the staves used for guitars, the G-clef is placed on the 2nd line and that line denotes the position of the G (and G# but not Gb) note above the middle C (indicated in the figure). The middle C has a frequency of 262 Hz.

As we go from below upwards, the pitch (frequency) of the note rises according to the natural notes of the Ascending chromatic scale. The sharps (or flats) are indicated by placing the sharp (#) or flat (b) sign next to the symbol time symbol of the note. The staff is read from left to right, irrespective of the line on which a note is positioned. All lines are read at the same time

A number of additional small incomplete line segments may be added (hand drawn), as per requirement, above and below the five main lines, printed on sheets. The lines indicate notes in the same order as the main staff. The notes placed higher up have a greater pitch than the lower ones as they indicate notes of octaves and vice versa for lower octaves. These lines, added above or below the five main lines (drawn along the whole page and joined by a bar or two) are called ledger (also spelled - leger) lines.

Placing the G-clef on the 2nd line, the lines and spaces (without adding additional lines) correspond to the following notes (and their sharps wherever applicable):

Spaces: D F A C E G

Lines: E G B D F

Important dictum:
A sharp of a particular note is the flat of the next higher, and the position of a non-natural note in the staff is determined by its “sharpness” and not by its “flatness.”

We can write the flats of a particular note, on the line or space below the designated line or space for that note as it is the sharp of the note below.

Examples: (compare with above)

(i) The lower A and A# are written in the 2nd space, while Ab is written on the 2nd staff line of the staff. This is because Ab = G# and G is written on the 2nd line.

(ii) The B that is one octave lower than the one in the middle (of the five lines), is written in the 2nd drawn (added) space below the F that sits within the main five lines. But Bb, being equivalent to A# will be written on the line below that space, i.e. the 3rd line added below.

Each note is written as a time symbol on its corresponding line. If it be as sharp, the # symbol is added to the time notation. For flats the b notation is used and the note is placed on the line or space below the one designated for the note whose name it bears.

On the staff, Sharps, Flats and Naturals are written as:
Staff: Sharps, Flats and Naturals

Shown here using the crotchet. The natural sign is required in case one uses Key Signatures

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